Senegal (06/03)

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Republic of Senegal

Area: 196,840 sq. km. (76,000 sq. mi.), about the size of South Dakota.
Cities: Capital--Dakar. Other cities--Diourbel, Kolda, Kaolack, Louga, Saint-Louis, Thies, Tambacounda, Ziguinchor.
Terrain: Flat or rising to foothills.
Climate: Tropical/Sahelian--desert or grasslands in the north, heavier vegetation in the south and southeast.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Senegalese (sing. and pl.).
Population (est. 1995): 9.7 million.
Annual growth rate: 2.8%.
Ethnic groups: Wolof 43%; Fulani (Peulh) and Toucouleur 23%; Serer 15%; Diola, Mandingo, and others 19%.
Religions: Muslim 95%, Christian 4%, traditional 1%.
Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Serer, Diola, Mandingo, Soninke.
Education: Attendance--primary 58%, secondary 16%. Literacy--38%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--69/1,000. Life expectancy--52 yrs.
Work force (4.0 million): Agriculture--70% (subsistence or cash crops). Wage earners (350,000): private sector 61%, government and parapublic 39%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: April 4, 1960.
Constitution: March 3, 1963, last amended in 2001.
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state, commander in chief of armed forces). Legislative--National Assembly (single chamber with 120 deputies). Judicial--Constitutional Council (appointed by the President from senior magistrates and eminent academics and attorneys), Court of Final Appeals, Council of State.
Administrative subdivisions: 10 regions, 30 departments, 320 rural councils.
Political parties: 65 political parties are registered, the most important of which are the Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS), Socialist Party (PS), the Alliance of Forces for Progress (AFP), "AND JEF/PADS", the Union for Democratic Renewal (URD), the Senegalese Liberal Party (PLS), the Citizens Party (PPC), "JEF JEL", the National Democratic Rally (RND), and the Independence and Labor Party (PIT).
Suffrage: Universal adult, over 18.
Central government budget (2000): $875 million.
Defense (2000 est.): $70 million.
National holiday: April 4, Independence Day.

Flag: Senegal flag

GDP (2000): $ 4.1 billion.
Real annual growth rate: 5%.
Per capita GDP (2000): $453.
Natural resources: Fish, peanuts, phosphate, iron ore, gold, titanium.
Primary sector: 18.5% of GDP, of which agriculture represents 9.5% of GDP: Products--peanuts, millet, sorghum, manioc, rice, cotton.
Secondary sector: 20.7% of GDP, of which industry and mining represent 14% of GDP. Types--fishing; agricultural product processing; light manufacturing; mining including energy, oil mining, and construction.
Tertiary sector: 60.9% of GDP of which services represent 39.7% of GDP and trade 21.2% of GDP. Trade (2000): Exports--$908.1 million (fish products, peanut products, phosphate products). Major markets--France, other European Union, West African CFA zone. Imports--$1.2 billion (food, consumer goods, petroleum, machinery, transport equipment, petroleum products, computer equipment). Major suppliers--France, Nigeria, Cameroon, United States.
Exchange rate: Fixed to French franc (FF)--African Financial Community (CFA) franc 100=1 FF.
Economic aid received (2000): $361 million from all sources, $24.7 million from the U.S.

Senegal is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. The Gambia penetrates more than 320 kilometers (200 mi.) into Senegal. Well-defined dry and humid seasons result from northeast winter winds and southwest summer winds. Dakar's annual rainfall of about 61 centimeters (24 in.) occurs between June and October when maximum temperatures average 27oC (82oF); December to February minimum temperatures are about 17oC (63oF). Interior temperatures are higher than along the coast, and rainfall increases substantially farther south, exceeding 150 centimeters (60 in.) annually in some areas.

About 70% of Senegal's population is rural. In rural areas, density varies from about 77 per square kilometer (200 per sq. mi.) in the west-central region to 2 per square kilometer (5 per sq. mi.) in the arid eastern section. About 50,000 Europeans (mostly French) and Lebanese reside in Senegal, mainly in the cities. French is the official language but is used regularly only by the literate minority. All Senegalese speak an indigenous language, of which Wolof has the largest usage.

Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam established itself in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century; 95% of Senegalese today are Muslims. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Soudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960, as a result of the independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on April 4, 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on August 20, 1960. Senegal and Soudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Leopold Sedar Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal's first president in August 1960.

After the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. In December 1962, their political rivalry led to an attempted coup by Prime Minister Dia. Although this was put down without bloodshed, Dia was arrested and imprisoned, and Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the President's power. In 1980, President Senghor decided to retire from politics, and he handed power over in 1981 to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf.

Abdou Diouf was president from 1981-2000. He encouraged broader political participation, reduced government involvement in the economy, and widened Senegal's diplomatic engagements, particularly with other developing nations. Domestic politics on occasion spilled over into street violence, border tensions, and a violent separatist movement in the southern region of the Casamance. Nevertheless, Senegal's commitment to democracy and human rights strengthened. Diouf served four terms as President. In the presidential election of 2000, he was defeated, in a free and fair election, by opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another.

Senegal is a secular republic with a strong presidency, weak legislature, reasonably independent judiciary, and multiple political parties. Senegal is one of the few African states that has never experienced a coup d'etat. As noted above, power was transferred peacefully, if not altogether democratically, from Senghor to Diouf in 1981, and once again, this time in fully democratic elections, from Diouf to Wade in March 2000.

The President is elected by universal adult suffrage to a 5-year term. The unicameral National Assembly has 120 members, who are elected separately from the President. The Socialist Party dominated the National Assembly until April 2001, when in free and fair legislative elections, President Wade's coalition won a majority (89 of 120 seats). The Cour de Cassation (Highest Appeals Court, equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court) and the Constitutional Council, the justices of which are named by the President, are the nation's highest tribunals. Senegal is divided into 10 administrative regions, each headed by a governor appointed by and responsible to the President. The law on decentralization, which came into effect in January 1997, distributed significant central government authority to regional assemblies.

Senegal's principal political party was for 40 years the Socialist Party (PS). Its domination of political life came to an end in March 2000, when Abdoulaye Wade, the leader of the Senegalese Democractic Party (PDS) and leader of the opposition for more than 25 years, won the presidency. Under the terms of the 2001 constitution, future presidents will serve for 5 years and be limited to two terms. Wade was the last President to be elected to a 7-year term.

President Wade has advanced a liberal agenda for Senegal, including privatizations and other market-opening measures. He has a strong interest in raising Senegal's regional and international profile. The country, nevertheless, has limited means with which to implement ambitious ideas. The liberalization of the economy is proceeding, but at a slow pace. Senegal continues to play a significant role in regional and international organizations. President Wade has made excellent relations with the United States a high priority.

There are presently some 65 political parties, most of which are marginal and little more than platforms for their leaders. The principal political parties, however, constitute a true multiparty, democratic political culture, and they have contributed to one of the most successful democratic transitions in Africa, even among all developing countries. A flourishing independent media, largely free from official or informal control, also contributes to the democratic politics of Senegal. The country's generally tolerant culture, largely free from ethnic or religious tensions, has provided a resilient base for democratic politics.

Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic--Abdoulaye Wade
President of the National Assembly--Youssou Diagne
President of the Constitutional Council--Youssoupha Ndiaye

Prime Minister--Idrissa, Seck
Minister of Defense--Becaye Diop
Minister of Economy and Finance--Abdoulaye Diop
Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Union, and Expatriate Senegalese--Cheikh Tidiane Gadio
Minister of Justice--Serigne Diop
Minister of the Interior--Gen. (retired) Mamadou Niang
Minister of Artisanry and Industry--Landing Savane
Minister of Education--Moustapha Sourang
Minister of Social Development --Maimouna Sourand Nadir
Minister of Mining, Energy and Hydraulics--Macky Sall
Minister of Health Hygiene and Prevention--Awa Marie Coll-Seck
Minister of Infratructure, Equipment and Transportation--Mamadou Seck
Minister of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry--Habib Sy
Minister of Environment and Protection of Nature--Modou Diagne Fada
Minister of Fisheries--Pape Diouf
Minister of Civil Service, Labor and Employment--Yero Deh
Minister of Small and Medium Sized Business and Commerce--Aicha Agne Pouve
Minister of Urban Planning and Regional Development--Seydou Sy Sall
Minister of Sports--Yousoupha Ndiaye
Minister of Family Affairs and National Solidarity--Awa Gueye K�b�
Minister of Culture and Communication--Abdou Fall
Minister of Legislative Affairs--Mamadou Diop
Minister of Women Entrepreneurship and Micro Credit--Saoudatou Ndiaye Seck
Minister of Research and Technology--Christian Sina Diatta
Minister of Decentralization and Regional Planning--Soukena Ndiaye Ba
Minister of Industry and Handicrafts-- Minister of Youth--Aliou Sow
Minister of Housing--Madick Niang
Junior Minister of Budget (Reporting to the Minister of Economy)--Cheikh Adjibou Soumar�
Junior Minister of Local Government (reporting to the Minister of the Interior)--Thiewo Ciss� Doucour�
Junior Minister of Private Vocational Training, Literacy and National Languages--Georges Tendeng
Junior Minister of Pre-school Education and Facilities for Small Children--Ndeye Khaye Diop
Ambassador to the United States--Lamine Ba
Ambassador to the United Nations--Papa Louis Fall

Senegal maintains an embassy in the United States at 2112 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-0540), and a Mission to the United Nations at 392 Fifth Avenue, 9th floor, New York, NY 10018 (tel. 212-517-9030).

Senegal has well-trained and disciplined armed forces consisting of about 19,000 personnel in the army, air force, navy, and gendarmerie. The Senegalese military force receives most of its training, equipment, and support from France and the United States. Germany also provides support but on a smaller scale. Military noninterference in political affairs has contributed to Senegal's stability since independence. Senegal has participated in many international and regional peacekeeping missions. Most recently, in 2000, Senegal sent a battalion to the Democratic Republic of Congo to participate in MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission, and agreed to deploy a U.S.-trained battalion to Sierra Leone to participate in UNAMSIL, another UN peacekeeping mission. A Senegalese contingent deployed on a peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic in 1997, and in 1994, Senegal sent a battalion-sized force to Rwanda to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission there. In 1992 Senegal sent 1,500 men to the ECOMOG peacekeeping group in Liberia, and in 1991, it was the only Sub-Saharan nation to send a contingent to participate in Operation Desert Storm. In August 1981, the Senegalese military was invited into The Gambia by President Dawda Kairaba Jawara to put down a coup attempt. In August 1989, Senegalese-Gambian military cooperation, which began with the joint Senegalese-Gambian efforts during the 1981 coup attempt, ceased with the dissolution of the Senegambian Confederation. Senegal intervened in the Guinea-Bissau civil war in 1998 at the request of former President Vieira.

The former capital of French West Africa, Senegal is a semi-arid country located on the westernmost point of Africa. Predominantly rural and with limited natural resources, the country earns foreign exchange from fish, phosphates, peanuts, tourism, and services. Its economy is highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall and changes in world commodity prices. Senegal depends heavily on foreign assistance, which in 2000 represented about 32% of overall government spending--including both current expenditures and capital investments--or CFA 270.8 billion (U.S.$361.0 million).

Since the January 1994 CFA franc devaluation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and other multilateral and bilateral creditors have been supporting the Government of Senegal's structural and sectoral adjustment programs. The broad objectives of the program have been to facilitate growth and development by reducing the role of government in the economy, improving public sector management, enhancing incentives for the private sector, and reducing poverty.

With an external debt of $ 2,495 million, and with its economic reform program on track, Senegal qualified for the multilateral debt relief initiative for heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC). Progress on structural reforms is on track, but the pace of reforms remains slow, as delays occur in implementing a number of measures on the privatization program, good governance issues, and the promotion of private sector activity. However, macroeconomic indicators show that Senegal turned in a respectable performance in meeting IMF targets in 2000: annual GDP growth increased to 5.7%, compared to 5.1% in 1999. Inflation was reported to be 0.7% compared to 0.8% in 1999, and the current account deficit (excluding transfers) was held at less than 6% of GDP.

The fishing sector has replaced the groundnut sector as Senegal's export leader. Its export earnings reached $239 million in 2000. The industrial fishing operations struggle with high costs, and Senegalese tuna is rapidly losing the French market to more efficient Asian competitors.

Phosphate production, the second major foreign exchange earner, has been steady at about $95 million. Exports of peanut products reached $79 million in 2000 and represented 11% of total export earnings. Receipts from tourism, the fourth major foreign exchange earner, have picked up since the January 1994 devaluation. In 2000, some 500,000 tourists visited Senegal, earning the country $120 million.

Senegal's new Agency for the Promotion of Investment (APIX) plays a pivotal role in the government's foreign investment program. Its objective is to increase the investment rate from its current level of 20.6% to 30%. Currently, there are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or investment financed with convertible foreign exchange. Direct U.S. investment in Senegal remains about $38 million, mainly in petroleum marketing, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, chemicals, and banking. Economic assistance, about $350 million a year, comes largely from France, the IMF, the World Bank, and the United States. Canada, Italy, Japan, and Germany also provide assistance.

Senegal has well-developed though costly port facilities, a major international airport serving 23 international airlines, and direct and expanding telecommunications links with major world centers.

President Senghor advocated close relations with France and negotiation and compromise as the best means of resolving international differences. To a large extent, the two succeeding presidents have carried on Senghor's policies and philosophies. Senegal has long supported functional integration among French-speaking West African states through the West African Economic and Monetary Union. Senegal has a high profile in many international organizations and was a member of the UN Security Council in 1988-89. It was elected to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1997. Friendly to the West, especially to France and to the U.S., Senegal also is a vigorous proponent of more assistance from developed countries to the Third World.

Senegal enjoys mostly cordial relations with its neighbors. In spite of clear progress on other fronts with Mauritania (border security, resource management, economic integration, etc.), there remains the problem of an estimated 30,000 Afro-Mauritanian refugees living in Senegal.

Senegal enjoys an excellent relationship with the United States. The Government of Senegal is known and respected for its able diplomats and has often supported the U.S. in the United Nations, including with troop contributions for peacekeeping activities. The United States maintains friendly relations with Senegal and provides considerable economic and technical assistance. About 300 Senegalese students come to the United States each year for study. President Diouf paid his first official visit to Washington, D.C., in August 1983 and traveled several times to the U.S. thereafter. In June 2001, President Wade met President Bush at the White House. Senegal hosted the Second African-African American Summit in 1995. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton began her trip to Africa in March 1997 with a visit to Senegal, and President Clinton visited Senegal in 1998. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner, visited Senegal in August 2001. Foreign Minister Gadio met Secretary of State Colin Powell in September and November 2001. Senegal took a strong position against terrorism in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the U.S., and in October 2001 hosted a conference establishing an African Pact Against Terrorism.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implements the U.S. Government's development assistance program. USAID's strategy focuses on the following objectives: sustainable increase in private-sector income-generating activities; more effective, democratic, and accountable local management of services and resources; and increased and sustainable use of reproductive health services in the context of decentralization. There also are two short-term objectives related to supporting the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in the Casamance in southern Senegal and increased girls' access and retention in targeted primary and vocational schools. USAID provided $24.7 million in development assistance to Senegal in fiscal year 2001.

The Peace Corps program in Senegal involves 135 volunteers, engaged in forestry, health, and small business development. The cultural exchange program consists of three Fulbright professors and about 20-30 international visitor grants per year.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Richard Roth
Deputy Chief of Mission--Alan Latimer
USAID Director--Olivier Clauduner
Peace Corps Director--Malcom Versel
Defense Attache--Lt. Col.Paul Simoneau
Political Counselor--Chris Rochester
Economic Officer--Timothy Forsyth
Public Affairs Officer--Michael Pelletier
Consular Officer--Andrew Passen
Administrative Counselor--Paul Pometto

The local address of the U.S. Embassy in Senegal is U.S. Embassy, B.P. 49, Ave. Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal.

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z